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Differentiate the Bestiaries!


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With Bestiary 6 coming soon, I've got the series on my mind right now. I mostly get along okay just using d20pfsrd.com for monsters, but sometimes there's just no substitute for an actual book, y'know? The thing is, there's just enough of them out now, especially with the new one on the way, to make it confusing to try to figure out which I should be getting.

Obviously the first one is your source for staple go-to critters and classic D&D monsters. But what factors are there that would make me want to choose one of the other four (soon five) over its rivals? For example:

1. Are there any major themes running through them? Like, I've heard #3 has more monsters based on non-Western sources and also more fey than the others, that sort of thing.

2. Any major changes to the design philosophy or underlying math over the course of the series? For example, I remember that in the first two Monster Manuals for D&D 4th Edition, the monsters tended to have too many hit points and do too little damage, whereas with MM3 they started to mostly get it right. Has anything comparable happened in the Pathfinder world?

(One reason I ask: My experience with trying to run modules, some official and others converted from 3.5, is that monster accuracy is reasonable only at very low levels. From about level 6 up some Pathfinder monsters hit on a 4 and others miss on a 15 and very little seems to be in between. Save DCs are even more extreme with most ridiculously low, a few that basically say "you save on a natural 20", and literally nothing in the middle. Wondering if that's been fixed.)

3. Would any of them make a particularly good alternative to Bestiary 1, i.e. a good baseline set of monsters for a somewhat non-standard campaign?

4. Are there any ranges of CRs that some bestiaries are particularly good for or neglectful of? Like, with some books for other, related RPGs you notice there's essentially nothing for characters above level 10 or so that isn't a demon or a dragon; any such issues in Pathfinder?

Right now I'm leaning toward getting #1 for the basics and #3 because both of the points mentioned in item 1 above are big selling points for me. But I would be very easy to persuade away from this and toward other volumes, especially given answers I like to questions 2 and 3 above.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

1. I would say the themes are the following:

Bestiary 1 and 2: Classic DnD monsters. Bestiary 1 is dominated by stats of SRD monsters and the basic stuff you need for a classical DnD campaign. 2 continues that trend, adding a lot of "serial numbers filed off" creatures to replace stuff not in the SRD, including some of the outsider categories

Bestiary 3: Dual Themes: A pretty heavy emphasis on creatures from Asian folklore or at least those with Asian flavor, alongside fleshing out the ranks of outsiders, with a lot of new categories or fleshed out categories that only had a single example in earlier bestiaries

Bestiary 4: My general take is that its the Horror Bestiary, with a lot of monsters owing inspiration to horror movies/books (Nosferatu, Great Old Ones, Xenopterid, etc). Also the first bestiary to include mythic threats and some more science fictional stuff

Bestiary 5: Occult Bestiary...quite a few creatures that either incorporating Occult rules, or owe some inspiration to those themes

Bestiary 6: Not released, but given the number of demigods, almost certainly going to have a strong high CR theme

2. Not sure? other than its less about adapting existing monsters and more about creating new things, which might lead to some rule drift

3. Generally all of them have a pretty good range of CR threats, 0 HD races, familiars, ect. (Except again maybe Bestiary 6). I would say 3 and 4 would probably work best as alternative bestiaries?

4. See above. Although later volumes such as 4 and 5 do a much better job of fleshing out the CR range of different monster categories (high level fey and humanoids for instance).

Personally, I would rank them as 4,3,2,5,1, from best to worst. They all have good monsters...I rank 1, 2 lower simply because of how much SRD/Tome of Horror monsters show up in that book that we already see, and 5 I felt had too many monsters that were too overly similar to existing critters.

Sczarni

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber

I'm doing this from memory, but I believe:

4 had a bunch of fey in it, a little more than normal.... It also skewed higher than normal as far as CR, as it had the first creatures with mythic tiers in a bestiary.

5 has a lot of creature with alternate movements. Swim/fly/earthglide/etc

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